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Taking A Look at Trans Fats

Updated: Jul 8, 2022

Doughnut—do-not; popcorn—push away and cake mix minus. All of these are foods that can include trans fats. Now some of you may agree “Oh yes, I enjoy all of them and the fat transfers to me! “Not—trans-fat is made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil through a process called hydrogenation which makes the oil easier to blend with other ingredients and less likely to spoil. The use of trans fats in the production of commercial food products helps foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and have a less greasy feel. They are known to enhance flavor and texture.

However, unlike other fats, these trans fats, also called trans fatty acids do two things in our bodies. They raise your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and lower your “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

The combination of a high LDL cholesterol level with a low HDL cholesterol level increases your risk of heart disease, which is a leading killer of men and women.

The recent announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling trans fats as a threat to public health will require that the food industry phase them out of processed foods. The news, paving the way to cut out trans fats comes just as many of us are planning to cook and serve the holiday fixin’s that we love: cakes, pies, cookies, quick breads, cornbread stuffing and the list goes on. Many food companies and restaurants read the tea leaves on the controversial fats and voluntarily changed ingredients, pruning them from products and menus. You may still find them in foods such as pie crusts, biscuits and ready-to-use cake frostings.

The key to knowing they have and have not items is to read the labels and restaurant menus thoroughly. Food labels were required to include trans-fat content information. Trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol amounts can be found on food labels, helping shoppers compare dietary amounts of each. This is a big help in striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The information found on labels helps people make informed decisions about dietary and menu choices.

Now you know my mantra... “there is no one good food or bad food,” however in the case of trans fats, the research points to being very watchful about trans-fat content. Some of the foods you may want to push away from are microwave popcorn, stick and tub margarine products, fast foods, fried foods, crisp snacks, baking mixes, and frozen desserts. Look for “No Trans Fat” labels on packages and limit the amounts you consume.

One of my goals as a Registered Dietitian is to share information, that will help on your quest to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to push all your favorites off the table. Simply try to be nutrition-wise so that you’re able to make decisions that are in line with your health and lifestyle goals.

Take Away: Choose to be an informed shopper, reading labels to ensure that you are mindful of ingredients in foods and able to make the best choices for you and your family members.

Image courtesy of digitalart /

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